Working on a company branding means that all aspects of the communication need alignment so that the audience (internal or external) will perceive actions, words, images, and so on as one.
What is Branding and What Isn’t.
Brand definition includes a name, tagline, design, or symbol that differentiates one product or service. That is how we recognize brands by their logo on clothing o billboards.
Brand elements are important, of course, but they are just stepping stones when we want to work on the company's branding. What am I talking about? Well, when you decide what car to buy, the car's brand strongly impacts your decision. The same happens with your gym clothes and the attire you choose for an important meeting.
All those decisions you make are influenced by how you experience the brands: because of the branding.
Branding, then, is the architecture of your brand’s experiences. What actions, what words, and in what tone of voice will you say, what will your brand do to be perceived in a certain way by your ideal audience.
Now that we’ve established that, these are the items that conform to the brand experience but are not it:
The brand book
The visual identity
You need all those items to align to create the right experience.
Brand Positioning: conquer the mind of your customers.
Phillip Kottler said that brand positioning is to design a commercial offer in a way that gets to a special place in the consumer’s mind.
In an ever-changing world like the one we live in today, audiences are bombarded with information all day, every day, and from every platform. Our brains are used to cluster information and to decide in just a few seconds if what we’re seeing is relevant to us or not. If it is, we take a second look; if it’s not, we won’t even remember it later.
As a solution for the excess of information, we are used to seeing or looking for elements that indicate that we’re in front of something we care about. That’s why most industries use certain colors, fonts, and types of images. For example, gyms always show pictures of the results (the fit guys), and the colors tend to be powerful and dynamic (black and yellow or orange, a sharp green). Cool colors like aquamarine, blue tones, and fonts tend to be more romantic if it's a spa.
In technology, some colors are quite popular to the point that sometimes it’s hard to differentiate one company from the other. This is already crossing the line from staying within what the audience assumes an industry looks like to copy what the industry is doing.
The biggest issue with having the same font, same colors, and same website layout is that the client won’t know (and won’t care!) what the company was.
A personal story here: a few years ago, I was moving houses. I wanted to buy a rattan pouf for my living room, so I began to search on Instagram. Of course, many other stores appeared on my feed once I ran the first search, thanks to advertisements. The thing was: all of those stores had the same colors, similar names, and logos, and the products were very much alike, I can’t even remember if there was a price difference. So I bought my pouf, but I don’t even know from where.
Getting to the right place
By now, you might be asking, how do I get there?
Start by considering the following aspects:
Do you know your ideal customer?
Is there a concordance between what your company is saying and its actions?
Are you giving time to the strategy? Because Rome wasn’t built in a day.
The Ideal Customer
Your product or service is not meant to fix everyones’ problem. And that’s okay. Knowing who your customer is, is the first step to even creating that product or service! Are you from women, men, or non-binary? What’s their income status? Do they have kids? What’s the actual pain that you are helping to solve?
Product developers have popularized the concept of the Buyer Persona, and it comes in handy when thinking of a person or a niche to direct our message.
Your company's message needs to be crafted for its specific audience. Let’s set an example: the CEO of a company just had her first baby. Yes, she makes business decisions daily, but now she’s also looking for diapers. If we sell diapers, we will try to catch her maternal, soft side: we can talk about how our diapers brad won’t harm the baby, will keep everything where it needs to be, and both she and the baby will be happy while using us; if we want her to hire our marketing services for her company, we will show why she can trust our results. Both companies will solve her problems, just different ones.
So yes: as humans, we are more than just “the CEO” or “the mother,” but as brands, we must point to the specific pain we are solving.
Prove Words with Actions
The audience receiving your messages will perceive everything coming out from your headquarters and make their own impressions about how your company is. This includes things like using an old logo, mixing colors, and using the wrong kind of images –you know, things that might seem like not a lot, but they are.
When we want to sell our product or service, we appeal to our consumers' trust: we will, as promised, ease their pain. The first time they buy from us, it’s a token of trust, which is actually proof that the efforts of presenting the company are working. This means that to make that sale, we must first generate trust.
Trust comes when we are coherent in what we say and do.
So, a company that hires workers in cheaper countries with the excuse of “helping” or because they are “donating” to entities that will later help communities in those countries. But doesn’t pay the workers they hired. Well, that decreases trust.
Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day
Besides Rome, nothing meant to last will take a short time. It doesn’t matter what Gurus are saying these days, especially when talking about marketing services.
Creating a community, nurturing leads, and developing relationships all take time. And while all that happens, we need to be consistent with the message and action.
It sounds like a lot, but hey! If it were easy, everybody would be able to do it.
Architecture the experience.
We are a digital agency at Sud Creative, so most of our actions and tactics are for the digital world. Nevertheless, we have some expertise in generating experiences on-site.
A Film Festival to learn Chinese
When working for Fenix Institute, we thought promoting the Chinese Intensive course with a film festival might be a good idea.
The institute is in Uruguay, on the opposite side of the world, from many languages that teach (Chinese, Japanese, Russian, and others).
We ran ads for each new course and had a regular number of social media posts, blog interviews, and newsletters.
But we didn’t stay there. Oh no. We were always trying to bring the culture of those Asian countries closer to the one in Uruguay. For example, we would tell the story of the Chinese Cinderella. In this case, we decided to choose Chinese movies and do a festival: we went from the most occidental-styled story to the most Asian-styled, so the clash of the culture wouldn’t be so harsh on the audience. And to promote the festival, we partnered with a Podcast on movies that watched and commented on the films.
The online experience
We don’t have to talk about the Metaverse to say that most of the experiences can be taken to the online world.
Every time we interact with a brand, we are part of the experience. That is why the community manager's work is significant if a company uses Social Media: who is delivering messages, and how are they doing it? Are they respecting the tone of voice and personality of the brand?
Once we know our consumers, we will also know where to meet them. We can ideate a strategy to cross their path at best possible time: perhaps they work from home and listen to podcasts while cooking daily. Or maybe they instead watch youtube videos or short reels explaining how-tos. That all comes down from the Persona research.
Bringing your brand to life.
In conclusion, branding is much more than having a neat Brand Book: it’s all communications that are spread inside and out the company.
As consumers need to trust us before giving us their money, the brand experience must be coherent for them to trust us.
We need to know who our audience is to understand what kind of message to deliver and in what medium.
And finally, we need time to demonstrate we are trustable.